Pier Paolo Pasolini

Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini considered himself a poet, painter, philosopher, playwright, journalist, actor, novelist, political journalist and newspaper and magazine columnist before being a film director. All of his films are built of images, expressions and words that sometimes function more as language than as dialogue. He demonstrated a unique and extraordinary cultural versatility, becoming a highly controversial figure in the process. He had directed about 25 films and also contributed to the screenplays of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) and Nights of Cabiria (1957), writing the dialogue for the Roman dialect parts. His first film as director and screenwriter was Accattone (1961), which aroused such controversy and scandal that conservatives demanded stricter censorship by the government while Pasolini was tried for offence to the Italian state. In 1962 Pasolini directed one of his early neorealist films titled Mama Roma, starring actress Anna Magnani, and dedicated to director Roberto Rossellini. In 1964 Pasolini wrote and directed The Gospel According to St Matthew. It is based on scripture, but adapted by Pasolini, and he is credited as writer. Only Pasolini, an artist who was an atheist, a Marxist, and a homosexual could have made such an authentic and effective film on the life and death of Jesus Christ. When released The Gospel According to St. Matthew won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Festival, but the Right-wing Catholic groups picketed it. His later movies were centered on sex-laden folklore, such as Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Arabian Nights (1974). Playfully bawdy and poetically sensuous, the films (usually grouped as the Trilogy of Life) were wildly popular in Italy and remain perhaps his most enduringly popular works. Yet despite the fact that the trilogy as a whole is considered by many as a masterpiece, Pasolini later reviled his own creation on account of the many soft-core imitations which were released afterwards. This was seen as one of the primary reasons for Pasolini’s final film Salo: 120 Days of Sodom (1975), based on the novel by Marquis de Sade. The films explicit scenes of sadistic torture, sick depravity and graphic violence generated so much controversy that Pasolini was brutally murdered before its release while on the beach at Ostia, near Rome in 1975. While much of his work still remains controversial to this day, Pasolini has come to be valued by many as a visionary thinker and a major political figure in Italian literature and art. Pasolini developed a philosophy of language mainly related to his studies on cinema, promoting in his work the concept of “natural sacredness;” the idea that the world is holy in and of itself, a concept that drew inspiration from his favourite Greek philosopher Parmenides.

Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pier Paolo Pasolini Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Pier Paolo Pasolini

Gospel According to St. Matthew, The (1964)

Only Pier Paolo Pasolini, an artist who was an atheist, a Marxist, and a homosexual could have made such an authentic and effective film on the life and death of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it was because the story was adapted by a nonbeliever who did not preach, glorify, sentimentalize or romanticize the famous story; and instead did his best […]